Friday, October 15, 2010

Is it greener to borrow ebooks from your local library?

When Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris published their life cycle analysis (LCA), comparing e-books and physical books (How Green Is My iPad?, NYT), they wrote that at "all in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library."

Now, how about staying and home and getting an e-book from your local public library?

I got thinking about it after hearing a report on NPR's Marketplace about libraries in Birmingham, Atlanta that offer users to check out e-books ('
iPad and Kindle users can't borrow from e-book libraries'). This is a growing trend, and it seems that libraries find it an interesting channel that will keep them connected with readers in the digital age.

For readers it's very convenient (
cheaper than buying e-books and "there are no late fees, no trip to the library, the book expires after the date.") and of course the big e-readers sellers don't like it too much (Library e-books don't work with two of the biggest e-readers - the Amazon Kindle and Apple's iPad) as it means less business for them.

But what about the environmental side of this option? I mean, leaving the e-book vs. physical book debate aside for a moment, is it "greener" to borrow a book from a library than buying it online? I'm not sure. I can't think actually of any reduction of your environmental impact if you choose to use e-library over buying online.

I mean, this sort of activity, can eventually change the way libraries operate and probably influence their current public functions (will we be able to afford and support big brick and mortar libraries if most of their activity will be online?), but I can't think of any advantage from an environmental perspective for borrowing e-book comparing to buying it.

I'll be happy to hear your thoughts about it!

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!